COSTA MESA – For much of Friday's Battle of the Bell Game at Orange Coast College, underdog Fountain Valley High had Edison on the ropes in a Sunset League matchup that pitted arch-rivals against one another for the 42nd time. The Barons had battled the Chargers on even terms on the field but more importantly for them, they held the edge where it counted: on the scoreboard.
With just over six minutes to play, the Barons were clinging to a three-point lead on a night where they had yet to trail.
"That was the type of game we knew we had to play, in order to be successful," Fountain Valley Coach John Shipp said. "Our defense played its best game of the season, by far. May hat's off to them and our coaching staff which did an outstanding job. And yet, we lost. This is bittersweet."
It took an 18-yard touchdown pass from Edison senior quarterback Chase Favreau to senior tight end Bryce Campbell with 6:13 remaining to put the Chargers in the lead for good and send them to a 14-10 victory before an overflow crowd in excess of 8,000 at LeBard Stadium.
The triumph was important to Edison on a few fronts. First, it allowed the Chargers to maintain possession of the coveted Bell for a seventh-straight year (Fountain Valley's last win in the series came in 2004). The win also gave them a 27-14-1 lead in the series. Second, and most important, the come-from-behind win helped the Chargers clinch at least a share of the Sunset League championship. Edison is now 4-0 in league and has a one-game lead on second-place Newport Harbor and Huntington Beach.
An outright title will be on the line for the Chargers (7-2 overall) next week when they play Thursday at Newport Harbor. The Sailors can earn a portion of the title with a victory and the winner of Thursday's game will take the league's No. 1-seed into the CIF playoffs which start Nov. 18.
"Our kids hung in there and pulled this one out," said Edison Coach Dave White who has been part of this longtime rivalry since its beginning. "It's a big win because we clinched a piece of the league championship and we did it by beating our big rival. Fountain Valley played their butts off. I knew they'd play their best game of the year tonight, and they did. This game was their season and they played real well. But our guys came through in the end. Our defense stiffened in the second half and we did just enough to win."
Edison began its winning drive from its own 46 with just under 10 minutes to play. Favreau kept the drive alive with a three-yard keeper on a third-and-one play from the Fountain Valley 45-yard line. Two plays later, he threw in the flat to running back Nicholas Masaniai who in turn threw back to Favreau. Finding open space around left end, Favreau raced for 16 yards to put the ball at the 22. On second down from the 18, Favreau scrambled to his left but was able to recoup and find Campbell behind the Fountain Valley secondary. Campbell made the catch at the four and went untouched into the end zone. Aleksander Torgersen's conversion put the Chargers in front, 14-10.
Fountain Valley started its ensuing drive at its own seven and was able to move out to the 26 but on fourth down quarterback Chris d'Entremont's pass to Wyatt Christensen was short of the first down. Christensen was taken down by Chargers junior linebacker Donald Rice two yards shy of the first-down marker with 1:30 remaining.
Edison then ran out the clock, and then the Chargers ran straight for the Bell that sat in the south end zone.
"We took away their run game all night and made some adjustments at halftime," White said. "A lot of individuals made some great plays and other than that third-and-22 play we gave up in the first half, I thought we played pretty good defense. I told our guys at halftime that we were not playing Edison football. [Fountain Valley] had a lot to do with that, though. I was proud of the way our guys came back in the second half and shut them out."
Edison turned to its run game to chew up much of the second-half clock, led by Nicholas Masaniai, who led all rushers with 71 yards.
"We couldn't run the ball at all tonight and Edison made some adjustments and got their run game going in the second half," Shipp said. "It was like a chess match out there. We had our moments, and they had theirs."
Fountain Valley (4-5, 1-3 league) played inspired from the start and took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on the strength of a 47-yard field goal by Derek Huynen. The Barons also stung the Chargers early in the second quarter. On the play White was referring to, d'Entremont connected with tight end Sean Finley for a 45-yard gain on a third-and-22 call. The big play put the Barons at the Edison 17 and three plays later, d'Entremont hit Christensen with an 18-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 10-0 over the stunned Chargers with 9:30 left in the half.
On Edison's final possession of the half, the Chargers moved 82 yards in 10 plays to get back in the game. Favreau engineered the drive by picking up 22 yards rushing. Sixteen of those yards came on a first-and-20 scramble from the Fountain Valley 48. He later hit senior receiver Troy Baljeu for seven yards and a first down at the 25 with a minute left in the half. On the next play, he laced a pass to senior receiver Sedric Hill that resulted in a 25-yard touchdown.
Perfect pass. Perfect route. The game was back on.
"We hadn't done too much up until that point," said White who had called time out before the touchdown pass. "It was an option route call and we had one-on-one on the play. Chase threw a great pass."
Favreau ended up with 158 passing yards and d'Entremont threw for 125.
Fountain Valley closes out its season at Huntington Beach Nov. 11.